Blog Article Collection

Five Tips for Managing a Messy Meeting*

Added on: 14-Feb-17 12:00am

Author: Stuart Waters

Have you ever found yourself in a meeting where people are grappling with something very challenging? It may have been a situation nobody had faced before. It may have been that something beyond your control was impacting your business and you were scrambling to keep up. It may have been that you were tackling something very complex.

Whatever the context, these meetings are full of uncertainty and it can be difficult to know what to do.

If this has happened to you, here are some tips to manage uncertainty next time.

1.  Get the uncertainty onto the table. This means naming it. Name the fact that the situation is very unclear. Name the uncertainty about the way forward. Name the way some may be feeling – scared, confused, inadequate, helpless and unhelpful. Sometimes just acknowledging these things can rob them of their power to undermine us.

2.  Normalise it. This means reassuring everyone that those feelings of inadequacy are normal, expected, unsurprising. Let them know that this is where the energy for action comes from. Feeling scared is a sign that people are confronting the problem rather than in denial. It’s a good thing.

3.  Tap into people’s inherent experience. You can be sure that everyone in that room has spent a lifetime dealing with uncertainty. After all, what else is life but a long lesson in navigating complexity. We all do it, every day of the week. So in your meeting, find out how everyone has coped with a challenging situation before. Identify what you can learn from those collective stories of success and use that learning to take steps together. You are good at doing this!

4.  Appreciate not knowing. Remind people that not having the answer is the perfect pre-condition for finding a great solution. Not knowing means we are primed to learn, to create and test new ideas, to stretch the boundaries of what is possible. Not knowing forces us to be curious and to follow paths less travelled. You can’t be sure where you are going but you know you are going to do something new.

5.  Let go. It is a little like being dumped by a big wave when surfing. You can waste a lot of effort fighting the forces that assail you, but it doesn’t help. When in the grip of all that turbulence, let go. Go with it. Feel it and feel what you can learn from it. Only when you stop trying to do what you’ve always done can you open up to a different way of seeing the situation.

It feels uncomfortable to confront uncertainty in this way, but with a little practice we can tackle uncertainty with confidence. Good luck!

* Of course, because the uncertainty is high we can’t be sure that any of these tips will work……So tip 6 is trust your team to work it out together.

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